In Uzbekistan, former President Islam Karimov - who died in September - played a decisive role as an arbitrator in balancing influential power players since the fall of the Soviet Union, including (temporarily) eliminating influential persons who could pose a threat to his regime. Alisher Usmanov, an ethnic Uzbek billionaire, was one of the prominent figures who did not enjoy a good relationship with the President. Certain developments around Usmanov after the death of Islam Karimov, however, indicate that he might be back on stage in Uzbekistan.
As the new acting president until elections in December, current Prime Minister Mirziyoyev has already begun to cement his authority. In his new role as the new interim leader of Uzbekistan, Mirziyoyev’s mandate has become increasingly clear: to bring back “outlawed” individuals, slowly break Karimov’s legacy, and finalise consensus with the Tashkent-clan to secure a transition that is much more seamless than observers had initially expected.
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The August terrorist attacks has thrown otherwise stable Kazakhstan. Nazarbayev’s decision to reshuffle his cabinet for the second time in a couple of weeks is a sign that stability in Kazakhstan is no longer being taken for granted.
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News of the death of President Karimov, broken by Ferghana News on the evening of the 29th of August 2016, has yet to be confirmed. Regardless, these rumours have – once again – sparked lively debate regarding succession in Uzbekistan.
Having ruled Kazakhstan for more than 25 years, President Nazarbayev has kept a close network of loyalists and allies within strategic government agencies. However, constant reshuffling has prevented any one person or group from gaining too much influence – thereby limiting opposition opportunities.
Since Putin’s rise to power, his inner circle has largely remained unchanged. Many of the President’s key allies hail from the siloviki, ozero cooperative, as well as his former allies from St Petersburg and personal associates.
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Kazakhstan’s snap elections held on 20th March rendered unsurprising results. With presidential succession in mind, foreign investors would benefit from understanding how recent parliamentary elections can impact network alliances and the state resources they (eventually) receive.
He may have consolidated political control with the appointment of his protégée, Volodymyr Groysman, as Prime Minister, but there are no guarantees that the Cabinet reshuffle that replaced Western-favored technocrats with his political allies will make it to the end of the year.
Between 2008 and 2012, Aslan Musin held an influential position as one of President Nazarbayev’s most trusted advisors. However, shortly following the Zhanaozen riots in December 2011, Musin’s career – and his support network – disintegrated and he was cast into political abyss.
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While low oil prices account for much of Russia’s financial decline, Western sanctions have certainly left its mark on the Russian economy. The result of sanctions has led to a game of cat-and-mouse between the US and Russian oligarchs eager to protect their commercial interests.
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In many ways, Russia’s 2016 outlook will be a continuation of the previous year. With the price of oil hovering around $40 p/bbl (Russia needs $110 p/bbl to sustain its budget) and no end of economic sanctions in sight, the Kremlin’s objective will focus on cushioning the effects of its faltering economy and in turn, any challenge to its political rule.